Engineers reworked the Elantra GT’s body and chassis for ’18, reducing body-in-white parts 25% from the ’17 GT and nearly doubling advanced high-strength-steel content from 27.2% to 53.0%. Within that, there’s been a tripling of hot-stamped-steel content, with the car’s front-door openings the main beneficiaries.

With the growth of AHSS, and an 18% rise in structural adhesive use, body rigidity increases 18%.

The GT Sport’s chassis improves on the base GT’s by using a multilink rear suspension vs. a torsion beam. The former is evidence of the car’s European lineage (the GT Sport is sold as the Hyundai i30 in Europe). The GT Sport also has a rear stabilizer bar and higher spring rates front and rear, plus 18-in. vs. 17-in. wheels and tires.

The base GT isn’t tested here or during the shorter drive in San Diego, so it’s hard to say how much worse, if any, the ride and handling is compared with the GT Sport’s. Those not needing extra horsepower and torque or the more dynamic suspension, will find the base GT a great deal for the utility it provides, beginning at $19,350 for a 162-hp 2.0L/6-speed manual model and $20,350 for the same engine mated to a 6-speed automatic with Shiftronic.

In both the Michigan and California tests, the GT Sport’s braking was firm and steering was nicely weighted with low effort.

One criticism of the car is that it doesn’t sound sporty enough. The exhaust tone is pretty muted for a hot hatch. It’s possible Hyundai wants to create some distance, audibly, when it brings its N performance lineup to the U.S. Or it fears being rated poorly for excess engine noise in owner surveys. That is the reason you won’t find an acceleration-zapping Eco mode on this car.

The GT Sport’s interior is standard-issue black with red accents. It is still an effective look for a sport compact, although even more red would be nice. While the seats and dash have plenty of the color, the doors are solid black and devoid of much decoration.

The front seats have large side bolsters to grip our upper body in cornering and a comfortable bottom cushion with good thigh support for this taller-than-average female.

Due to its European roots, the Elantra GT’s interior, which like the exterior basically is a carbon copy of the i30’s, has above-average materials. Soft-touch covers the instrument panel and the tops of all four doors. There also is a louvered door to conceal cupholders, which are high quality with hard retractable nubs and rubber-textured bottoms.

The touchscreen is easy to use, with a lot of negative space around icons for easy selections. Voice recognition is less favorable. Setting an address is a too-many-steps process with a lot of “Are-you-sure-?” confirmations needed. Voice commands to tune radio stations are simpler.

Hyundai says the average compact-hatch buyer is young, male, educated and in a professional job – what it deems a “quality” customer that will grow with the brand, and making it obvious why so many compact hatchbacks have appeared in recent years.

This one is one of the better ones in terms of performance, features and utility for the price, with the GT Sport ranging from the mid-to-upper-$20,000-range if the optional tech package is added, roughly on par with the competitive set.

In typical Hyundai “value” fashion, the tech package is loaded, having nine advanced safety systems, half of which (front pedestrian detection, driver-attention alert, high-beam assist and adaptive cruise control) are rare within the compact-hatch sector.

The Elantra GT and GT Sport are on sale now at U.S. Hyundai dealers.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com